November 5, 2021 will be remembered as a landmark day as another step in setting right the narrative of our ancient nation, Bharat. Installation of Adi Shankaracharya’s murti in Kedarnath is a repayment of a fraction of the debt we owe to one of the greatest minds and intellectual giant who has impacted our civilization, our sanskriti as none has in last 2000 years. Adi Shankaracharya revived the scientific approach to spirituality, dharma and religion. He rose at a time when Hindu dharma had gone weak, being weakened by many forces from within and outside. Greatness of this sage was that he didn’t claim to have created anything new, he didn’t create a new sect or sampradaya, but re-presented ancient wisdom of Sanatan Dharma with insightful commentaries and breathed new life into philosophy of Advaita.
Shri Shankara revived the Sanatan tradition of ‘shastraarth’ or ‘debates’ to win over intellectual opponents, not force. He travelled all over Bharat and had shastraarth with scholars of various traditions. He could win over Bouddh scholars when Bouddh panth had gained wide acceptance. His biggest debate with great scholar Mandan Mishra is a landmark in Bharatiya traditions. More eye opening for the current generation is that his wife took over when Mandan Mishra conceded defeat and had to take sanyasa under Adi Shankaracharya. She had a long debate that she finally lost. But this episode shows that women were held in equal respect, they were free to pursue high spiritual goals, were scholars and there were no boundaries drawn around their role. It was a time when Church was just born. It was much before established Church were debating whether women had a soul, whether they can be treated as equal. Woman was considered lower life form because she had persuaded Adam to commit the ‘Original Sin’.
His visualisation of Bharat as one geo-cultural nation is manifest in his four mathams and re-igniting the glory of four sacred teerth kshetras (Chaar dhaam). It is a signal contribution to the idea of Bharat. That he could achieve all this by the age of thirty two – travelling by all over Bharat on foot, have shastraarthas, set up four mathams, create a proper system of running the mathams their process of succession and take samadhi is an inspiration for all the youth that it is possible to achieve so much in a short span of time.
With the ceremony at Kedarnath ji, we can feel less guilty for not giving the rightful place to this great aatman. Shri Narendra Modi ji’s speech on the day delineates his personality beautifully. As a society, we should be embarrassed if not ashamed that Kerala’s Kochi airport, just a few kilometres away from his place of birth, Kalladi, could not be named after him though there has been sustained demand for it since 1990s.
Modi ji went onto rub salt into irreligious Hindu hating crowds by reminding them that people at all the 12 jyotirlingas and 4 mathams as well as many other sants and intellectuals were witnessing this event remotely. It had two underlying messages – that twelve jyotirlingas also signified the geo-cultural unity of this ancient land. And, the underlying thread of unity of this land is its Hinduness was not lost on the Sanatan dharmis nor on secular groups.
While speaking about Adi Shankaracharya he reawakened the strength of our knowledge tradition. A tradition not confined to spiritual arena but also in science, technology and health etc. Bharat has moved out of the shadows of Taj Mahal and snake charmers. For seventy years, our knowledge systems lay buried in rubbles of secular history writing that denied every achievement of this civilisation. The way his government and state BJP governments have renovated and upgraded various pilgrim centres like Kedarnath, Kashi, Mathura, Vrindavan, Kushinagar etc is a lesson to others about how to maintain religious centres while keeping their sanctity in mind. His call to citizens of Bharat to take up spiritual travel of various religious circuits that government is promoting to get connected with this land was call to go back to our civilisational roots.
With International Yoga Day followed by setting up of Ayush ministry and New Education Policy, PM Modi has created a positive environment for the Indians who had lived under mistaken notion that only thing India had to offer was poverty, dark age orthodoxy, casteism, oppression of women etc etc. It is renaissance of Hindu culture that is hurting the left secular crowds. Unfortunately, while left-secular lobby understands the significance of various steps that Modi government is taking, some of our Hindu brethren are still not convinced about Modi ji’s efforts in helping this cultural renaissance.
This renaissance is linked to our economic renaissance too. The huge infrastructure push all over Bharat and around the sacred places will give a huge push to local employment and micro and small businesses as he pointed out about Uttarakhand. Those who criticise Modi ji about ‘politicising’ rejuvenation of Kedarnath ji, forget that he had volunteered to help rehabilitation and reconstruction of Kedarnath dhaam after 2013 disaster but petty politics did not allow it. After he came to power, he did not forget his commitment and helped created a model that sustains rising pilgrimage and also its sanctity.
Our distorted sense of secularism which is neither western nor eastern now, has come to a stage where we can idolise evangelist Teresa and prostrate before her, have rapist clerics published in religious calendars, offer salaries to minority clerics, celebrate iftar parties, offer namaz even though one is not of that religion, but a Hindu wearing his religiosity is called communal.
This event brings to the fore the debate that, in a pithy phrase, is called India vs Bharat. There is no negativity about creating a prosperous and new India. Which means picking up modern ideas and synthesising them with our age-old successful knowledge systems. However, we need to come out of our negativity about Bharat. This sustained Macaulay inspired left narrative needs a decent burial now. The Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi event signifies another step in that direction.
This article originally written by Dr Ratan Sharda for www.organisers.org.